Occhat 29th November 2011 “The occupied self: the role of occupation in identity”

This evening’s #occhat hosted Dr Jackie Taylor from University Salford who discussed some of her work on identity and occupation. Participants were encouraged to listen to her presentation from World OT day 2010 “Rebuilding damaged identities through occupation” which provided an overview of her work and a visual example of the framework that informs her conception of the
occupied self. In particular it was intended to demonstrate how this work relates to OT clinical practice (scroll down to find presentation 9: Rebuilding damaged identities through occupation).

Thanks once again to all the participants in what turned out to be a very stimulating discussion. This is a brief summary of the discussion, the full transcript is here.

Information about identity

During the discussion the following points were made about identity.

  • There is a fundamental link between occupation, identity and well-being.
  • Identity is formed of personal and social aspects.
  • Language is a fundamental symbolic system enabling people to understand each other, and to construct an image of self.
  • Occupational identity is about building identity over time, through a constellation of occupations.
  • There are specific gender issues which influence occupation and identity.
  • The act of engaging in occupations contributes to our identity, whether we think these occupations are important or not.
  • Morality forms part of our identity as how we act reflects our values.

How can work on identity inform OT practice?

Issue for OTs is whether we pay enough attention to the impact of illness, ageing, and other forms of deprivation on identity and how this restricts occupations. There was a suggestion that OTs should consider whether occupations are identity appropriate as well as age appropriate. To achieve this requires work to define identity with our clients i.e. talking with them about what they value, what is important to them.

To support this examples of OT assessments and measures that look at identity were mentioned including the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure, Occupational Performance History Interview – II (OPHI-II), and aspects of the Occupational Self Assessment (OSA).

Dr Taylor is currently working with people who have survived cancer to develop a ‘workbook’ to help people overcome biographical disruption (Bury, 1982), although it is appropriate to anyone whose identity is damaged. The framework is a tool for systematically helping people to understand the meaning of their occupations. If they can understand this then they may be helped to find new ways forward, to overcome the experience of a disruption to their sense of self. Dr Taylor is using a participatory design as a research method and is involving cancer specialist OTS, and people who
have survived cancer.

Other sources of information (Charmaz, 2002), (Christiansen, 1999), (Laliberte-Rudman, 2002). Dr Taylor also suggested that if you would like references on specific aspects of what was discussed you can contact her at j.taylor@salford.ac.uk.

Dr Taylor is on LinkedIn here

BURY, M. 1982. Chronic illness as biographical disruption. Sociology of health & illness, 4, 167-182.
CHARMAZ, K. 2002. The self as habit: The reconstruction of self in chronic illness. OTJR: Occupation,
Participation and Health, 22, 31.
CHRISTIANSEN, C. H. 1999. Defining Lives: Occupation as Identity: An essay on competence,
coherence and the creation of meaning. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY,
53, 547-558.
LALIBERTE-RUDMAN, D. 2002. Linking Occupation and Identity: Lessons learned through qualitative exploration. Journal of Occupational Science, 9, 12-19.

Post by Chris Genter